Based on a novel by Mary Hayley Bell (aka Mrs John Mills, and Hayley Mills’s mum), Whistle Down the Wind is a thoughtful British film that marked Bryan Forbes’s (The Stepford Wives, International Velvet) directorial debut.
Young Kathy (Mills, swathed in a big coat most of the time to hide the fact she was sixteen but playing younger) and her two younger siblings find a man hiding in their barn. When he’s discovered, he mutters ‘Jesus Christ’ in surprise just at the moment the kids ask who he is, so they instantly (because they are God-fearing, religious children) believe that he really is the son of God. In fact, the man (Bates) is actually a convicted murderer who is a hunted fugitive.
While Mills was already a competent and established actress, the other two children (Diane Holgate and Alan Barnes) had no acting experience, yet are both brilliant (sadly Holgate never made another film, while Barnes only appeared in 1963’s The Victors). Bates is just right as the man who would be Jesus in what is a beautifully filmed, simple tale of childhood innocence and belief.
Is Whistle Down The Wind suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
The children’s first encounter with the man may scare young viewers.